Clark Collis
March 22, 2013 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The horror buffs at EW have a new fixation. And it’s called You’re Next. The darkly comic home-invasion movie is due in theaters Aug. 23, and it’s a crazily entertaining riff on films like The Strangers and Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. Most of the film’s macabre fun derives from the devilish matching of terror tropes — a remote house, masked psychos, etc. — with fully formed, realistically behaving characters. They’re the kind you might find in the filmography of prolific indie filmmaker Joe Swanberg (V/H/S), who appears in You’re Next as…an indie-film-insulting jerk.

The film recently screened at the SXSW festival in Austin, where it generated a near-ecstatic audience reaction. The positive buzz was particularly encouraging to director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett, whose ”bummer” of a previous effort, 2010’s serial-killer drama A Horrible Way to Die, hardly inspired passion among moviegoers. ”Audiences just quietly filed out at the end,” says Wingard. ”You didn’t know if they liked it or were depressed.” What a difference a new movie makes. ”When we watch You’re Next with the audience, I always turn around right before the scares and watch about 75 percent of the theater jump,” the director says, sounding pleased. ”That’s why we did the movie.”

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